Experts have found that people who use pedometers to count their steps as part of a 12-week walking programme, can have a healthier, more active lifestyle three to four years later.
Brisk walking for 30 minutes or more daily on most days of the week can help adults and older adults to achieve important health benefits.
Researchers at St George’s, University of London, compared adults and older adults in two 12-week walking programmes who were using pedometers, with people who did not receive the pedometers and advice. They showed that the pedometer groups were still doing more physical activity three to four years later.
Tess Harris, Professor of Primary Care Research at St George’s, University of London, led two National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded trials called PACE-UP and PACE-Lift which had similar components: pedometers; 12-week walking programmes based on behaviour change techniques; and physical activity diaries. The material, advice and pedometers were provided either by post or as part of practice nurse physical activity consultations.
The PACE-UP trial recruited 1023 inactive 45-75 year old primary care patients from seven London general practices. It found at three-year follow-up that those in both the postal and the nurse advice groups were still doing approximately an extra 600 steps per day and 24-28 extra minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly, in 10 minute bouts, than those in the comparison group who had received usual care.
The PACE-Lift trial recruited 298 primary care patients aged 60-75 years from three Oxfordshire and Berkshire GP practices. It found that at four-year follow-up, those in the nurse intervention group were doing approximately an extra 400 steps per day and an extra 33 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in 10 minute bouts, compared to the group who had received usual care.
Professor Harris said, “We knew that pedometers could improve physical activity levels in the population in the short-term, but long-term health benefits require sustained increases in physical activity levels.
“What is unique about this study is that we have shown that short, simple pedometer-based walking interventions, whether delivered by post, or with advice and support from practice nurses, can lead to greater objectively measured physical activity levels three to four years later.”